Laziness, procrastination and time wasting; Time management #2

The three things that get in the way of getting things done when you want to

This is the second article about time management and what to do when you find yourself procrastinating.

In the article last week, here  I wrote about Darren and the two big questions you must ask yourself all the time to become a Doctor of Discipline, and a professor of punctuality:

  1. How much do I want to do this thing?
  2. How much do I want to avoid the consequences of not doing this thing?

With absolute clarity over those two questions, your life will start to change.

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But there is one more step to truly obliterate the concept of procrastination from your life. I’ll illustrate what I’m talking about with another story, this time about myself.

I’ve always done a lot of writing. I believe I am a relatively good writer. I was actually trained as a journalist in the dim distant past. So I’ve had a bit of practice and schooling, and I actually enjoy the process.

But for years I wouldn’t get much writing done at all, because of endless procrastination. Whenever I wanted to write something, I could literally spend days procrastinating and wasting time and getting distracted by everything under the sun.  And I used to beat up on myself like you wouldn’t believe.

Learning to trust myself

Until I realised, one day, that what caused my procrastination, was not knowing what to write. That insight changed my procrastination patterns forever because I started taking a whole new approach to my writing. From that day, I decided to trust myself that something would come out as long as I’d start writing.

And that approach has worked for me ever since. Whenever I want to write something, I simply sit down behind the keyboard, and I start to write; whatever pops into my head, stream of consciousness kind of stuff. Often I have absolutely no idea what I am going to write, but I just start writing anyway, about the weather or what I did on the weekend or the last book I read.

Once I start writing, I have learned to trust that it will come and it always does, and I enjoy writing again, and it is great for my business. Once we have absolute clarity about what we want to do and what consequences we want to avoid, we can often be waylaid by other hurdles to get things done:

  1. We don’t know how to actually do the thing we want to do.
  2. The task we’ve set ourselves is too big, and the enormity of it is overwhelming, and we just don’t know where to start.
  3. We are actually unsure what the task involves.

My client’s hurdles

I see these same hurdles appear for my clients all the time. A client might decide to write a marketing plan, for example. But in the weeks following the decision, nothing happens and the client start to beat up on herself for being such a procrastinator.

Of course, we investigate what’s going on and nine times out of ten, it becomes clear quite quickly, that the client doesn’t really know how to go about writing a marketing plan, what the steps are, where to start.

Invariably, as soon as we expose such a hurdle, the hurdle dissolves. We break the process down to a bunch of small steps; we decide what the first small step is and how to go about taking that small step and the client goes off and makes things happen. Procrastination simply ceases to be an issue instantaneously.

As I said, the hurdles come in many colours, shapes and sizes, but every time I notice a client (or myself) starting to beat herself up over being a procrastinator, I know there is something else getting in the way.

I believe laziness simply doesn’t exist, or at least not the type of laziness we get tough on ourselves over. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a lazy afternoon on a tropical beach, you could even argue that that kind of laziness is what the world needs more of, but people are rarely lazy good for nothing slobs in my experience.

Allowing yourself more time and space to ask yourself the two big questions and to investigate what is going on when you find yourself procrastinating truly will change your life… I promise you.

Business owners are all lazy slobs; Time management #1

time management lazy slob

How to become a doctor of discipline and professor of punctuality

One Monday, my client Darren walked into my office for one of our weekly sessions in a particularly foul mood. To my inquiry about his weekend, he snapped: “I didn’t get that bloody tax return done all weekend again! I am just so lazy!”

When I asked him what had happened he responded with: “I spent all Sunday cleaning out the garage, mowing the lawn, watching the rugby and taking my girlfriend out to lunch”. “To be honest, I have been procrastinating for weeks over this tax return and even after deciding to get it done this weekend, I still never even made a start on it”.

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I kept a pokerface, but inside I was smiling, because every client I’ve ever had, has told me a variant of this same story at some stage in their journey with me: “I am a terrible procrastinator, I am a no good lazy slob who gets distracted by stuff that doesn’t matter and I need you mr business coach to get really tough with me.” I didn’t say all that of course, instead I said:

“Wow, that sounds bad. But did you enjoy yourself doing those other things?”

“Of course” he replied, “It felt really good to get those things done. But that’s not the point. I still didn’t do my tax return after making a commitment to myself to do so this weekend”.

“I understand that you are disappointed,” I said, “But tell me, have you always done your own tax return?”

Darren pondered for a little while and responded: “Yes, ever since my father taught me how to do it. It always feels really good completing it myself and getting some sort of refund”.

“Ok”, I said, “and have you ever been late completing it and are you late now?”

“Oh no”, he replied, “That would defeat the purpose wouldn’t it, I’d get a penalty, and that would reduce the fun of getting a refund. I still have a couple of weeks to go now, but I just wanted to get it in a few weeks early, in case something came up.”

I smiled and said: “Hmmm, have you considered that something actually did come up this weekend? Maybe the lawn, the garage, the game and your girlfriend were more important?”

“Is there actually any real reason to assume you won’t get your tax return completed in the next two weeks?”

Lessons from Darren

As you might have guessed, Darren completed his return on time as he always had before and probably has ever since. And yet he considered himself a lazy slob for not getting it done earlier.

I believe people only ever do anything in life for one of two reasons:

  1. Because they actually ‘want’ to do this thing, … or
  2. Because they don’t want the consequences of NOT doing this thing

Darren wasn’t a lazy procrastinating good for nothing at all. He wanted to do the garage; he wanted to deal with the grass; he wanted to watch the Wallabies win a game of Rugby for a change, and he wanted to spend time with his girlfriend.

He wanted to do those things. He didn’t particularly want to do his tax return that weekend. What’s more, the consequences of not doing his tax return that weekend were actually negligible.

In the circumstances, Darren made entirely the right decision to delay his tax return.

Ask yourself the two big questions

Becoming a better time-manager always has to start with asking yourself these two questions:

  1. How much do I want to do this thing?
  2. How much do I want to avoid the consequences of not doing this thing?

It really is that simple. As long as you do not have 100% clarity over those two questions, you will always confuse the hell out of yourself, and you will be exasperated with yourself for being such a procrastinator.

Of course, there’s more to being efficient and effective than just answering those two questions. And I’ll write about that in the second article about time-management. But without absolute clarity about those two questions, you will not become the time-management ninja, the doctor of discipline you crave to be… I promise you.

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